What is the public sector equality duty for?
The public sector equality duty is designed to ensure that those carrying out public functions (including public authorities) consider how they can contribute to and help foster a more equal society. They have a duty to promote good relations between different groups and to advocate and advance equality.
- Deliver improved outcomes for everyone.
- Develop policies, based on evidence.
- Take action to advance equality.
- Be transparent, accessible and accountable.
- With this policy the onus shifts away from the individual’s need to assert their right to equal treatment onto public authorities. Public authorities are now expected to be pro-active in tackling institutional discrimination.
The public sector equality duty covers a list of ‘protected characteristics’:
- religion or belief
- gender reassignment,
- pregnancy and maternity
- sexual orientation
The duty also covers marriage and civil partnerships, in relation to eliminating unlawful employment discrimination.
How does it relate to disabled people?
Organisations must take into account a disabled person’s impairment and ensure that that impairment is not a barrier to equal treatment. Organisations need to be pro-active i.e. not wait to react if someone complains about an issue or requests equal access or treatment. An example would be a local authority making their website accessible to disabled people and providing alternative formats available by default.
The General Equality Duty
The public sector equality duty is set out in the Equality Act 2010 and referred to as the ‘general equality duty’.
The general equality duty has three elements:
- To eliminate unlawful discrimination.
- To promote equality of opportunity.
- To foster good relations between those with ‘protected characteristics’ and those who do not.
A public authority must take account of these three needs to comply with the general equality duty.
Who is subject to the General Equality Duty?
The list includes health boards, education authorities, further and higher education authorities, local authorities, the police, fire and rescue authorities and Scottish Ministers. There is a full list of those subject to the act online.
The duty covers public authorities when carrying out their public functions as service providers, as policy makers and as employers and also covers services and functions which are contracted out.
When private and voluntary sector organisations are carrying out a ‘public function’ they are also covered by the duty. A public function’ is one defined as such by the Human Rights Act 1998.
In order to meet the general duty, a public authority must:
- Be educated about the the act and the requirements implied so that they can be applied to policies and practices. Duties under the act should be considered at the time when new policies are being created.
- The decision making process must take heed of the three needs of the general equality duty in a way that influences the outcomes of those decisions.
- The general equality duty is a ‘continuing duty’ – so it has to be considered during the implementation of policy and must be continually reviewed.
- The public equality duty also applies to anyone exercising public functions on behalf of a public body; the duty rests with the public authority even when delegated to a third-part organisation.
Secondary legislation outlining specific duties came into force on 27 May 2012.
Each listed authority is required to:
- Publish progress on mainstreaming of the equality duty, equality outcomes, gender pay gap and equal pay.
- Review policies and practices and asses them.
- Gather employee information.
- Consider award criteria in relation to public procurement
- Publish information in a manner that is accessible.
How Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design Can help organisations comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty
Many of the organisations subject to the act have websites and documents that are not accessible to disabled people. If a disabled person cannot access information on a website managed by a public authority and no alternatives are offered that would be considered as unequal treatment under the Equality Act 2010 .
The services I provide can help in the following ways. I can:
- Carry out a website access audit to check if there are any barriers to disabled people accessing content.
- Help make the updates necessary to ensure your website is accessible
- Develop a new usable accessible website for your in so that you are being pro-active in meeting the needs of disabled people
- Update your existing website to make it more accessible.
- Identify and fix accessibility problems with PDF’s or Word documents you publish so that your publications are accessible to your target groups.
Contact me to discuss any of the above. Telephone: 07810 098 119
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